The Boston harbor. A ship in port waits.

Captain Bernard of the steamer Samaria knew something was wrong. He had been instructed to wait a short period for Wakefield and Herman to return after dealing with Osgood. The captain paced the waterside, watch squeezed in hand to the point of the face cracking. No, something was not right. He looked up at the leaden sky above the Boston waterfront.

Osgood. How did he keep coming back like a bad shilling!

How Osgood, the pale bookman, could have been responsible for so much upheaval, the captain could not grasp. Osgood, a publisher, little more than a printer of ink and type, turning out to be such a thorn in the flesh?

What could have gone wrong? Wakefield and Herman could take care of themselves, if necessary, could find him way out of any scrape. Especially against a nothing like Osgood.

“I want the ship to push off immediately,” the captain ordered.

“Mr. Bernard?” his first mate asked. “We are not scheduled—we have passengers expecting to board in the morning. And we're waiting for our mail shipment to bring back. Some of the crew are on shore and have not yet returned...”

“Now!” Bernard commanded. “I will send a message back with the next Boston-bound ship with their instructions.”

Soon, orders given to the reduced crew, the captain had the Samaria cruising away from the harbor. The captain had only retired below for a few minutes when he was alerted to a commotion back on deck. Returning up top, he discovered that a small tug was steaming toward them. A few more moments, the tug had pulled alongside.

“What should we do?” asked the first mate. “It looks like it's just one man.”

The captain looked over the situation, wishing his employer were there to give orders. “I want to know the man's business. Bring him up.”

Lowering a ladder, the occupant of the tug was brought over the side. Simon Pennock, he identified himself to the captain. A tax agent. “I have some important matters to discuss.”

“We are rather in a hurry,” the captain said nervously.

“Indeed, you must be in a hurry, sir,” Pennock replied with an arrogant air. “I would note you were marked to leave tomorrow. Most unusual. I've been watching you in dock. This is a ghost ship, isn't it,” he added, looking around at the small band of sailors. “How many passengers do you presently have? Crew?”

“I shall have to ask you to return to your tug so we may resume are course,” the captain said insistently.

“Oh? Then nobody here would like to discuss opium shipments, I presume.”

All eyes of the crew turned sheepishly to the captain. Behind him there appeared one of his Chinese schroffs and another man who looked more brawler than steward. With hardly a twitch on the captain's part, the schroff produced a long knife and the rogue removed a pistol.

Pennock blanched and took a step backward toward the rail. “Now, see here, what's this? You are merchants, not pirates!”

“My friend,” said the captain, moving closer, followed by his two shadows, “this is what so many of you Americans seem to fail to understand. It is entirely possible in life to be merchant, smuggler and pirate all at once.”

“Now see here! I am a government official!” Pennock cried out.

Another sound had been heard—the sound of oars crashing into the water. The navigation lamps were used to locate another vessel, a small life-boat, coming toward them fast. The captain ordered Pennock to be held in place.

“What's in the moon today?” the captain grumbled under his breath as he peered out over the railings. “Can you see who they are?” He was answered in the negative. “Signal them that we are not in need of any assistance. Hang this!”

The signal lights were used to communicate the message but the coming vessel did not stop. As it continued to approach, the captain grabbed a speaking trumpet.

“This is Captain Bernard of the English steamship Samaria. Please identify your purpose.”

The life-boat slowed to a stop in front of the steamer. One of the figures in the vessel stood up and addressed them through their own speaking trumpet. “Drop anchor and wait for your instructions! Everyone on board your ship is to come peaceably and or you will be harmed.”

Pennock looked on in amazement at the perplexing situation.

The captain brought his fist down hard on the railing and turned to his men. “Show them who will be harmed!”

In a matter of minutes, with a succession of agile adjustments, the Samaria quickly showed its power of conversion into a regular frigate—a gun uncovered through a porthole on the starboard side and the crew producing rifles which they pointed down over the railings at the visiting life-boat.

Pennock trembled. The captain showed a slight smile and raised the speaking trumpet again. “You were saying, gentlemen?”

Suddenly, there was the sound of a rocket and the sky above the Samaria burst open in a flash of brilliant light. It was a parachute light-ball, its shell falling into the water and the glowing chemical illumination burning as it floated in the air like a miniature sun.

In the stunning new light, in the background could be seen the parent of the small life-boat, a giant ironclad battleship, the English flag high above the mast, its insignia reading H.M.S. Zealous. Shining black guns up and down the port side pointed at the Samaria.

In the life-boat, the front man stood up again with his speaking trumpet, illumined by the descending explosion of light like the chief actor in a dramatic play. “This is Sub-Lieutenant Sydney Dickens of Her Majesty's Pacific flagship, Zealous,” the small officer announced evenly and firmly, “and we have received orders to prevent any further movement on the part of the steamer Samaria. You are to surrender your ship for search and all individuals to come with us.” Sub-Lieutenant Dickens proceeded to order his marines to board the passenger steamer.

As the name Dickens was pronounced, both Captain Bernard and Simon Pennock here united in appearing uncannily flabbergasted. Nor was that name enunciated casually by the naval officer, but with boldness and thunder as though it were as powerful and upright as the man-of-war beyond. The captain, having turned bright red under the glow of the astonishing light, turned to their port side and could see a second Royal Navy warship approach from the horizon. The Samaria crew gradually laid down their rifles.

Pennock was spinning around in an utterly disoriented state. He sputtered, “did he just say—did that lieutenant say Dickens—?”